Cancel your event, not your mission.
How nonprofits can adapt to unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 crisis
By Brittany Hebert, Founder and CEO of Sky High For Kids
In the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic, nonprofit organizations across the country are encountering unprecedented challenges as fundraising events are cancelled and economic uncertainty halts donations and sponsorships. Regardless of these challenges, our missions and community needs are not cancelled. In many cases, support is needed now, more than ever. As the Founder and CEO of Sky High For Kids, it is incumbent upon me to meet these obstacles head-on and encourage my team to adapt, innovate and grow stronger – for the sake of the courageous, cancer-fighting, children we are privileged to serve. I’ve put together my best advice for nonprofits navigating the adversity which we currently find ourselves:
1. Keep your eye on the mission: These uncertain circumstances can feel intimidating and chaotic, but we know our commitment to our mission is critical and necessary. Thousands of organizations in the U.S. will inevitably face challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dedication to those we serve should be a top priority as we navigate through these hurdles. Many of these organizations serve missions and people who need them regardless of any external factors – and organizations like ours are essential to saving lives. In times of chaos, there will be plenty of distractions fighting for your attention; keep your vision clear and let your mission pull you through.
Every member of our team is dedicated to funding research and, ultimately, finding a cure for childhood cancer. This is what motivates us on the good days, and especially the tough days.
2. Communicate with your team: Now, more than ever, we need leadership. Leaders must empower those around us, particularly our employees. Assessing individuals’ strengths and weaknesses together as a team can help us develop new ways to tackle projects. Be transparent with your team and build a culture of trust to allow for open, honest dialogue so we may quickly find solutions to challenges.
At Sky High, as we exercise social distancing, we are utilizing all the free technology tools available to stay connected — video conferencing, frequent calls and even virtual breaks with one another. Our team is already strong, but through this challenging time, we are committed to emerging even stronger.
3. Adapt and Innovate: The COVID-19 pandemic and economic insecurity has caused anxiety and fear in many of us. When people are anxious, it can be hard to focus on the task at hand. which is why by implementing virtual brainstorming sessions we endeavor to find creative solutions for the challenges we face, like the potential loss of millions of fundraising dollars. We even invite our board members, volunteers and friends to join us for more brainstorming power.
Adapting can sometimes mean getting uncomfortable. As an events-focused organization, I have three full-time staff members focused on our fundraising events. With event cancellations I simply can’t afford to have these employees stagnant. So I shifted one employee’s job description to focus on grant applications and writing. Another events manager has shifted to virtual events development. Creativity, innovation and thinking outside the box are required of us during uncertain times.
4. Lean on experts, and each other: Many businesses and nonprofits are facing uphill battles that are literally changing by the hour. There is no easy answer because nobody in modern history has experienced this situation before. At Sky High we have engaged experts in fundraising, communications and technology to help build a path to success. I’ve also been inspired by many of you, and especially the kids we serve. I’ve seen some incredibly creative solutions to challenges, and I take those with me to every virtual meeting. We may have an uncertain and challenging road ahead, but we will utilize every resource available to us to deliver on our mission.
I call upon the nonprofit community to lean on each other, and be inspired by our powerful missions, to find actionable solutions to continue to change for the better and to not lose sight of our purpose.